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This article is taken from PN Review 88, Volume 19 Number 2, November - December 1992.

Interrelations James Keery

BETWEEN THE showers of a July evening, during our holiday in Norfolk, some lines of Donald Davie's came to mind, though I hadn't (as I thought) got all the wine into the bowl: 'A thing worth doing is worth doing well/ Says Shaw Lane Cricket Ground between the showers/ Of a July evening something something,/ As the catch is held and staid hand-clappings swell'. It troubled me off and on until we got home. I couldn't think it was spoiled by a rhyme on 'flowers', 'hours', or even (Davie being Davie) Tours' - but surely it was one of those five or six stanza things, with every syllable accounted for ('Appear concerned only to make it scan')? Of course I'd remembered all there was to remember, and am only ashamed of not realising as much. The kinship with 'The Whitsun Weddings' is no mere 'frail … coincidence' of theme (heat, cricket, long shadows, rain): each poet is a spectator with a peculiarly intimate sense of England as a shapely whole; each enacts a suggestive transition from expansiveness to compactness ('I thought of London spread out in the sun,/ Its postal districts packed like squares of wheat'; 'This layabout July in another climate/ Ought not to prove firm turf, well-tended, wrong') by which any sourer expressions of diminishment might well be measured. Davie's 'staid hand-clappings' are as paradoxical a source of emotional fulness as Larkin's 'brakes' ('And as the tightened brakes took hold there swelled'), while the short second line ...


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